A year ago, amid a turbulent campaign season, Matt Mahon got a knock on his door from a fellow Republican.
Sean Kilpatrick was running for West Deptford Township Committee at the time, and the two had a conversation about the challenges Kilpatrick saw ahead for the township. Mahon hadn’t given a lot of thought to jumping into politics, but that visit from Kilpatrick raised his awareness into some of those local issues.
“I did some research on my own, and saw we’re in a tough spot,” Mahon said.
That sparked in him a desire to get more involved at the local level, which has led him to run for the Republican nomination in June’s primary, alongside Loran Oglesby, the former West Deptford and county party chair, who also ran for the Republican nomination for the House of Representatives last year.
Like the other Republicans in the field, Mahon said he and Oglesby are focused on bringing back fiscal responsibility to West Deptford, given the rising debt service payments and more than $100 million in general fund debt.
Mahon pinned some of that on RiverWinds, which accounts for close to half that debt, which he said was initially mismanaged.
“(RiverWinds) put too much of a burden on citizens before the ratables were in place,” he said.
Still, he also sees it as having a role in getting the township out of that debt. Mahon said he and Oglesby had talked with Kilpatrick about strategies for leveraging RiverWinds–whether that means putting solar panels on the community center or one of various other plans is up for discussion, he said, but the important thing is to have a plan in place.
“Township Committee is not a place for training wheels,” Mahon said.
Like Kilpatrick, Mahon said he and Oglesby are pushing for even more transparency in local government.
“We are in the information age,” he said. “We have the ability to communicate for low or no cost."
Mahon said he’d like to see the township get active in social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, in an effort to be even more communicative with residents. He pointed to Newark mayor Cory Booker’s tweets during this past winter’s paralyzing snowstorms as a prime example of how to use those social networks and online resources to better serve locals.
And though Mahon said he and Oglesby have much in common with Sam Cianfarini and Ray Chintall, the two officially endorsed Republican candidates, he said there are also significant differences, noting especially Cianfarini and Chintall’s laser focus on the township’s debt over everything else.
“Their heart’s in the right place,” Mahon said, “but cutting jobs and the budget affects everyone’s lives."
In fact, along with Cianfarini and Chintall, Mahon was the third candidate interviewed for the local party’s endorsement. He called the actual interview “a courtesy,” adding that he’d had an initially odd experience with local Republican chair Joann Priga during a meeting in January, which led him to think about branching out on his own.
While the two don’t have the endorsement from West Deptford’s Republicans, Kilpatrick, the lone Republican on Township Committee, said he’s personally endorsing the pair for the primary.
“The thing I like about them is that they’re very levelheaded,” Kilpatrick said, adding that their mindset and approach to local issues is similar to his own, in that they’re willing to hear out all sides of an issue before trying to reach a consensus solution.
Kilpatrick also praised Oglesby, who was his campaign manager in his run last year.
“She’s been a very strong player,” he said.